Five (Arch Oboler / U.S., 1951):

"A story about the day after tomorrow." A montage of international landmarks engulfed in mushroom clouds provides the apocalyptic global vantage, which swiftly descends to the tattered figure shambling along the deserted freeway. The first movement is a noli me tangere between the pregnant widow (Susan Douglas Rubes), whose dazed reserve would be modulated into the heroineís catatonia in Night of the Living Dead, and the bearded New York philosopher (William Phipps) who remembers Hiroshima. Other survivors soon materialize, the black ex-GI (Charles Lampkin) hoping "for a piece of security," the wizened bank clerk (Earl Lee) who expires on the wind-swept beachfront, the mountain-climber (James Anderson) brimming with old materialism and prejudice. Amid the ashes of the world ("Iím glad itís dead," howls Phipps), between the frail new garden being cultivated and the road leading to the radioactive city, Adam and Eve try to start over. Largely derived from Lifeboat, Arch Obolerís admirably grave, indelible parable of nuclear unease sets off the stark line of thought that runs through Fear and Desire, The World, the Flesh and the Devil, Last Woman on Earth, and quite a few Twilight Zone episodes. The filming is both spare and concentrated, at times even Rossellinian: groups of characters are encircled by deep chiaroscuro within the Frank Lloyd Wright home overseeing the hills, details like a window sign reading "Back in five minutes" litter the devastated landscape. The widowís trip to the remains of downtown Los Angeles is a nightmarish tour de force of handheld tracking shots and distant sirens, with just enough of a skeletal hand shown inside the stalled car to graze Daliís Rainy Taxi. "Behold! I make all things new," reads the closing card, not just a Book of Revelations quote but also a clarion call for aspiring independent filmmakers. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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